Addressing Change

By Ashley Barnes


One doesn’t have to be diagnosed with adjustment disorder (which is an actual diagnosis) to have a hard time with change. The reality is that we will be faced with many changes throughout the course of our lives. Your favorite restaurant in your hometown may close its doors for the last time. You may leave the expectancy, sureness, and comfort of your home for a dorm room. You may adjust to a new job, or change careers entirely. You may be navigating the drastic change that comes with the loss of a relationship or the death of a loved one. 

We so often grow comfortable and rooted in certain aspects of our lives that when change comes about, we feel uprooted. Change can be surprising or it can be anxiously anticipated. It could evoke fear and excitement simultaneously. Whatever comes up for you, I want to normalize the sense of pain and loss that comes with change, also acknowledging that change paves the way for more opportunities and personal growth.

Develop a routine.

Amidst so much change that is outside of our control, it can be helpful to acknowledge and place energy into what we can control. Developing a routine is one such way to do so, creating a sense of stability and regularity. 

This could look like a customized morning routine consisting of a gratitude list, coffee or tea, and a short walk each morning. It could also look like carving out set times to go to the gym each week, calling family members each Sunday to check in, or reading a book before bed. It looks different for everyone, and the beauty is that you get to choose this routine. Many of us find comfort and peace in consistency; a routine can help us find this comfort and peace again.

Self care.

Moving through the emotional and mental strain of a big life change can be taxing on your mental health. During periods of big change, it is more important than ever to engage in self care. Self care is anything we can do to care for ourselves so that we stay physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally well. 

For many, self care is an evening stroll to get some movement, a relaxing bath, eating nutrient dense foods, or doing a face mask. However, self care is also asserting boundaries in our work and personal lives such that we can preserve our well being, respect our own time, and respect our own energy. Self care can also be spiritual in nature, including art, music, and prayer.

Seek Support.

If you are part of the human race, you have experienced the impact of change one way or another. One of the most bonding aspects of the human experience is that we can relate to each other in our feelings, emotions, and experiences to some extent. This is called universality. 

As part of coping with change, we can access and lean on our social support network. Having the support of family, friends, communities we belong to, and mental health professionals as we move through periods of change will surely provide us with the sense that we are not alone in our experience. 

It is likely that people in our support network have had similar experiences; they can offer a listening ear, perhaps what they learned as a result of their experiences, and how they coped through periods of change in their own lives. Speaking with trusted loved ones about the feelings and emotions we are experiencing can help us feel more confident and supported as we navigate the challenges that arise as a result of life changes. 

Honor the change.

When moving forward into a new chapter of our lives, we often go through a grieving period as part of our adjustment. This is a normal part of the human experience. Grief is not limited to the loss of a loved one; we can grieve the passing of certain chapters of our lives, dreams we are no longer pursuing due to life circumstances, or even parts of ourselves that we feel we have disconnected with. 

Honoring the change could mean engaging in a ritual to honor and commemorate what we are grieving, and celebrating what we are gaining through the change. When leaving for college, one might be intentional about meeting up with hometown friends and going to favorite restaurants and hangout spots as a way of honoring this aspect of their lives. When deciding to block the number of a toxic partner after an exhausting few years, one might write a soulful, heartfelt letter to said partner as a journal entry without ever delivering the letter. 

In both of these examples, it is important to note that though aspects of the change may be painful, going to college and parting with an unhealthy relationship can present one with enriching opportunities. One day, we may even find that what we had such a difficult time adjusting to at first is the very thing we will have such a difficult time letting go of down the road.

If you are seeking support from a mental health professional, please contact us at the Mental Health Center for sensitive, attentive care.